By Kelly Furnish, Event Coordinator, Managing Matters
Engaging a multi-generational audience is challenging for even the most experienced of planners. Today, attendees range from Baby Boomers to Gen Xers to Millennials, each with different values, attitudes and expectations of what makes a successful event experience. The need to bridge the gap between generational groups is greater than ever. So, how do we as event planners create an event with multi-generational appeal? Here are some of challenges you may face and how to deal with them head-on.
Scenario: Your keynote speaker is delivering a lecture style presentation. Despite being one of the top experts in the field, the speaker is not capturing the attention of the younger members of your audience.
Solution: If there is a component of your event that appeals to one generational group over another, incorporate creative ways to engage the other demographics. Instead of concentrating on one method of information delivery, integrate a mix of session styles to stimulate all segments of your audience.
A great way to engage younger audience members during a traditional lecture is to incorporate a gamification element, where attendees are asked to participate in live digital polls throughout the presentation. By promoting active audience participation, your younger attendees will be more engaged with your speaker’s content.
For workshop sessions geared toward your younger demographic, satisfy your Baby Boomers by hiring a professional facilitator to guide the discussion. This will provide a more structured environment, while still allowing for some free-form dialogue. Each generation brings it own set of strengths when it comes to absorbing and sharing information, so be sure to consider this when developing your program.
Scenario: You are hosting a networking event for a multi-generational audience, and you notice a clear generational divide. While your older attendees engage in conversations among themselves, your younger attendees are more interested in live-Tweeting the event.
Solution: Understanding the different communication styles of your attendees is key to crossing generational boundaries at your event. Older attendees tend to value formal face-to-face interactions, whereas Millennials have forged a new path of social interaction that is more casual, instant and digital. At your next networking event, try unifying your audience by coordinating a mentorship program in advance. Pair your seasoned attendees with those just breaking into the industry to encourage an intermingling of groups who may have otherwise remained separate.
Scenario: You have introduced a new conference mobile app with a host of great features including scheduling, profiles on key speakers and ways to connect with other attendees. The day of the conference, you find your registration desk crowded with older attendees who are looking for assistance with downloading the app and accessing its features.
Solution: As the event industry continues to go digital, don’t forget about those less tech-savvy segments of your audience. When introducing new technology to your event, be sure to have printed programs and delegates lists available to those who are not ready to take the plunge into the digital world. However, do not underestimate the desire older attendees have for embracing new technologies. Create opportunities for all your generation segments to participate by incorporating clear instructions for your mobile app in your marketing materials leading up to and during the event.
Decoding generational differences is no simple task and continues to be a challenge for those in the event industry. When planning your next event, embrace the varying perspectives of your generation segments to create an experience that will engage all of your attendees.
About the Author
Kelly Furnish is Event Coordinator at Managing Matters. For more information, please visit www.managingmatters.com.